Let’s say that you invite me to go on a long run with you and I do so, even though I don’t run regularly, have sky high blood pressure, regularly eat fatty food, am 100 pounds overweight and am a closet smoker. After awhile I’m exhausted but my pride keeps me going and you encourage me and at about mile three I keel over with a heart attack. As I talk to my husband the next day from my hospital bed, I blame it all on you for inviting me to run with you.
Did you cause my heart attack? Ridiculous. It was my years of smoking, lack of exercise, pride, diet and obesity as well as my choice to engage in the running with you that caused the attack. I was a heart attack waiting to happen. You just gave me an opportunity to have it.
In a similar way, the regular, ordinary people with whom I interact each day may affect the way I feel at any given moment, but their contribution to that is minor. The bulk of the way I feel when I am feeling angry or hurt or frustrated or annoyed or inadequate in a relationship is due to my lifetime of events and feelings and/or my current physical/emotional state, not the person with whom I am interacting. As a matter of fact, if I’m bad enough off, the person may do absolutely nothing and I’ll still respond badly. (Really embarrassing.)
Similarly feeling love and peace, and expressing those things, are also hugely dependent not upon the regular, ordinary people with whom I am interacting (be they acting “loveable” or not), but rather upon my choices (some past, all present) and my ability to tap into and channel God’s love.
Jacob’s words come to mind: “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”
It is true that it is God’s grace that makes up for our imperfections and sins and lack of ability throughout our lives. And it is also, I am convinced, what makes it possible for us to fully love as he does, which is essential to salvation. Reconciliation with Him, that sense of understanding and connection with Him, enables that grace of loving, I think.
Not that I've got that down, by any means. But it seems to be worth trying to embrace.